Philadelphia award goes to dance company founder

    Joan Myers Brown has trained famous dancers since the 1970s

    Philadelphia honors its own with what is sometimes called the local version of the Nobel Prize. The Philadelphia Award is given to people who have put their mark on the city. This year it goes to a woman who founded a dance troop 40 years ago.

    Joan Myers Brown founded the Philadelphia Dance Company, or Philadanco, in 1970, primarily as an African-American dance troop. At the time there were few companies who would hire black dancers.

    Philadanco trained and featured many dancers who went on to have significant careers in dance, like Judith Jameson, who is currently the director of the renowned Alvin Ailey dance company in New York.

    Another former dancer for Brown is city councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who says the discipline she learned at Philadanco has helped her political career.

    “When you know you’ve hit the mark is when she says I’m proud of you. This makes me emotional – I’ve had a chance to help back. She’s left an imprint on my career.”

    Brown says she is still involved with Philadanco because her 14 year-old daughter takes classes there. The two of them are dancing in a mother-daughter event later this year.

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